It ‘s Finally Summer…

It’s finally summer here in southwestern Pennsylvania, but the long-lasting effects of winter still linger in the deeper recesses of my heart. Winter is cold, inhospitable, and grey, and those recesses tend to be the same. Sometimes, on very rare occasions, the sunlight will pierce the darkness and make me smile. I try hard to hang on to the light, but it eventually slips away, ushering in the return of the grey.

I’ve written in the past about feeling melancholy; a word that best describes the condition of my shattered heart. That feeling of pensive sadness with no obvious cause. Many would argue that I have cause to feel sad, I would argue back that while they are correct in some ways, the causes of my melancholy aren’t as obvious as people seem to think. I’ve made a good life for myself in Pennsylvania and have so much to be thankful for. I’m building a community with people in my church, I’m blessed to have a home I can afford and feel safe in, and I have my beloved grandchildren nearby.

Maybe what I’m feeling isn’t melancholy, maybe it’s more of a longing. I long for peace in America, and all we seem to have is division and hatred and racism. I read in Jeremiah 15 this morning that the Lord clearly states that He will continue to let us backslide and will not save us if we continue to follow corrupt leaders. Where do we turn when our government has failed us? I am not a republican or a democrat, I am just a woman that knows she isn’t valued by the powers that be in this country. That’s okay, I’m valued by God. If we would turn from our wicked ways, stop yelling over one another to be heard, and listen with ears that want to hear, maybe we could find common ground again.

I don’t like getting political… Please, stop yelling…

As I sit on my little patio with a breeze blowing and music playing, I am reminded that I have climbed the mountains that God placed before me in October of 2017, May, june, July, August and September of 2018. October of 2019 thru March of 2022. In March, the last piece of the puzzle for me to be able to settle in PA was put into place. I moved my husband’s urn here and he is resting peacefully about 20 minutes away from me. I can still hear him encouraging me to move forward and life a full life and I’m trying. For every tear I’ve cried since he had his stroke, I’ve cried just as many in gratefulness that he no longer suffers. I’ve learned to let go of the white-hot pain when it comes, take a deep breath, and wait on God to do what He does best. God carries me, and there is power in my weakness. Grace does what I simply cannot do, it soothes me…

I find myself at a crossroads once again, but this time it’s not mountains I have to climb. This time it’s a chasm that I have to navigate. Standing on the edge of this chasm causes me to feel so many conflicting emotions, and looking across to the other side is almost impossible. Almost… In the ravines of the chasm lay the ghosts of my past, and their words are waiting to pierce my heart. How do I scale down the cliffs to the bottom of the chasm so I can begin this next journey? Will there be anyone down there for me to lean on? Will I be hurt physically as well as emotionally? So many questions, with very few answers… The one sure thing? God will provide me a way down, and across, and up and out the other side. I wish I knew that the outcome would be as succesful as my last journey, and the lessons learned from that particular journey will definitely be studied as I move along in this new one. A very dear friend recently told me to “trust the journey” and I will. God loves me and He won’t let me get lost unless I ask Him to. Not. Going. To. Happen.

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and if you’re reading this, please know that I appreciate you very much. When I started this blog all those years ago, I never thought that I would write about anything other than estrangement and loss. I’m quite glad to admit that I was so wrong. I am still an estranged parent, I doubt that will ever change. I still pray for my daughter every night and every morning, but now I just step out of the fray and let the Holy Spirit do what He does. The battle is spiritual and the only weapon I can fight with is prayer. I am well-equipped. I then thought grief would be the only thing I would have to write about after my husband died, and again I was wrong. I miss him, of course, but I’m okay. I think my new journey will reveal to me whether or not I should keep this blog going, and I hope the answer is yes.

I encourage you to practice self-care, be kind to one another and smile as often as possible. The world outside the doors of our homes is full of chaos, discourse, and hatred. It’s up to us to make a difference for each other, and we can make our corners of the world a better place to be…

Lake Erie. Photo by Barb Enos.

Chapter One…

Hi All,

Yesterday was the very last day of the “first” year. The first year without my husband physically on earth was the 10th of February, the 23rd of February 2021, was the day he was laid to rest. The 23rd of February 2022 was the last day I would say “it’s the last of the firsts” without him. So many firsts take place in the first year after someone you love dies, and not just for me, but for all of us who loved him. The very first “first” was our youngest daughter’s birthday, just two days after he passed away. For the first 378 days we all marked the first birthday, Valentine’s Day, Easter, his birthday, etc… I’m sure you get the picture.

On my Facebook today I shared a memory that I had written about how to begin Chapter One. It made me cry, of course it made me cry. Then it gave me the idea to share what the first year (chapter) of my life as a widow has looked like. It wasn’t nearly as dark as I expected it to be, though there have been some extremely dark moments. Chapter One hasn’t been as lonely as it could’ve been, though there have been moments of soul-crushing loneliness. Chapter one has almost seamlessly turned into Chapter Two, and while I realize that’s how life works, I find it amazing when I look behind me and see where I am. And to be here from whence I came? How is it even possible?

Chapter One greeted me with pain and grief and confusion. The starkest memory I have of Chapter One started as my husband took his last breath. I couldn’t breathe. I’m forever grateful that my sister-in-love was with me. She held his hand. And she held mine. She held me while I sobbed. Then came the phone call to my son-in-love. He was the first person I called; I made a promise to my husband to call the husbands of our daughters before the girls. Once I got into contact with him, I had to make the phone call that I knew would crush our youngest. No matter how many times I think about that call, I always feel the same white-hot stab of pain. I know I had to call her; I knew I would break her heart. I knew, and I still know, that I shouldn’t feel like I hurt her on purpose, but I can’t seem to find peace when it comes to this one thing. No matter what happens, there is never a good time for bad news. Never. Our family was shattered. Once the formalities were over and the business of grieving could begin in earnest, Chapter One became something I feared.

Fear can destroy even the hardest of hearts, and I was not going to cave into fear. I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, not an unusual thing for anyone to do when their person dies. It’s a natural thing to dwell in despondency, at least for a while. I’ve had a few people tell me how “lucky” we were that we knew he was dying. Lucky? That’s a subject for another day. Whether death is sudden or drawn out as my beloved’s was, the end result is the same. There is nothing “lucky” about the end result. Chapter One started off with despair and angst. Over time, and with some serious soul searching, I have begun to write Chapter Two. Chapter One gave me some wonderful gifts, yet it also took a lot from me. I’ve learned that I’m much more in tune with myself than I’ve ever been. I’ve learned that my boundaries matter. I’ve learned that the tender heart that I’ve always loved having (even when it breaks) still beats within my chest, it just beats a little differently now. I’ve learned that no matter how much you try to help someone else, if they don’t want your help, your efforts are in vain. I’ve learned that forging my own path forward doesn’t look like anyone else’s path and I’m so okay with that. I’ve learned that I’m going to be okay and that I’m going to thrive in whatever life the Lord gives me.

Chapter One has given me the most personal view of love and loss that I’ll ever know. I lost my person, but not his love. Love doesn’t die when the body does, nor does it die when your broken heart feels like you’re bleeding out. I’ve become closer to God than I ever thought I would be. Ever. I know I’ve said in the past that I try not to be “religious” through my blog, and I’m not. My faith has been forged in the fires of death and loss, and my walk with God has become my armor against the darkness that death and loss bring us all. I cry out to Jesus and can feel His presence shine down on me when I can’t look up. I seek His hand to hold when the trials of life become bigger than I can manage on my own. Death is part of life, and pain is part of death. That pain? That pain lets me know that what my husband and I shared was real. That pain? That pain becomes encouragement when I meet someone new that’s on the same journey I am. That pain? That pain started Chapter One and gave me the grit and stamina I needed to start Chapter Two.

I hope this makes sense to those of you reading. I’m beginning to thrive, bypassing the survival stage of grief. I’ve worked my butt off trying to figure out who I am now as a woman. I’m still a MiMi, a mom, a friend and a person who cares about others. I’m also a woman that can appreciate the trials of Chapter One, even the ones that were made bigger because my heart is tender. Chapter One taught me that self-care matters, that boundaries are necessary and that I matter. I miss my husband. How could I not? And… I know that should God decide I’m to live another 30 years on this earth, I’m going to do my best to live as He would have me do. I’ve walked through the valley of the shadow, not around it, and the view from this end is now beginning to show promise. I seek joy again without even realizing it. I share my heart in all its brokenness with others, and I praise God that I am His beloved daughter.

Chapter Two won’t be all sunshine and roses, of this, I am sure. I’ll face demons. I’ll experience more trials. I’ll flounder and stumble and get lost from time to time. When I get lost, I’ll seek my inner compass, point the needle towards Jesus, and step out in faith. I have no doubt that my guardian angel(s) can see me. I absolutely believe that I can defeat the demons that I’ll face because I won’t be fighting alone. In my weakest moments I know God will carry me. I know when I look behind me there will be many times that I’ll see only one set of footprints in the sand. Or snow. It snows a lot here in southwestern PA. In spite of the coming setbacks, trials and tribulations, I say bring on Chapter Two…

Photo by Barb Enos. View from River View Cemetery, Charleston, SC.